It’s a study in contrasts. A stately stone church turned lively brewery/restaurant with an informal menu tuned to the traditional German-style lager that emerges from the shiny kettles that form the backdrop for the dining hall under a soaring ceiling. And now there’s a new executive chef, Chris Franz, fresh from 21 years as a chef at the Rattlesnake Club, one of the city’s prime restaurants. He is also the general manager.
Yes it’s an unlikely combination all around, but in the early going, the young staff at Atwater in the Park seems energized by the change, and Franz says he was ready to move on from the fine dining on the riverfront to new challenges. Being in an informal setting won’t change his belief that as much as possible should be made in-house or that fresh, high quality ingredients are vital, he says.
He’s starting slowly to tweak the existing menu and is also freshening up the menus for the other two Atwater spots, the Tap House downtown, and the Grand Rapids location, for the Brewery’s Mark Rieth.
And it’s fortunate that he’s a beer drinker himself, so he’s aware of what constitutes a beer-friendly menu. One notable addition he’s made so far is to add the German platter with local bratwurst, and other sausages teamed with spaetzle, red cabbage and sauerkraut served on weekends. Other upgrades include better potato pancakes and the reworking of the house fish tacos.
The restaurant has been open for three years and the menu has changed from time to time, but it will certainly benefit from Franz’ expertise to give it more focus. One of its current features is a list of small sandwiches, all $4, designed to be be ordered in multiples. They are typified by a pork wiener with melted cheese on a roasted pretzel roll, beer-battered cod with lemon caper sauce on a soft roll and there is also a vegan version wrapped in lettuce and including falafel, cucumber, pickled red onion, yogurt and hummus.
Vegans also like the “buffalo wings” made with cauliflower.
Of course there’s a good burger, and also a spicy black bean version. A popular sharable is the brewers bread, topped with a three-cheese blend and served in strips, and it’s a close cousin to pizza.
One of the pluses here is the large courtyard that is basically a beer garden with communal seating and a festive feeling.
The other Atwater locations are 237 Joseph Campau (neighboring the Rattlesnake Club) and 251 Michigan Street, Grand Rapids.
Atwater in the Park
1175 Lakepointe at Kercheval, Grosse Pointe Park
Call: (313) 344-5104
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Mon.-Thurs., 11:30 a.m.-midnight Fri.-Sat., 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Sun.
Prices: Soups and salads $7-$8, slider style sandwiches $4, sharable appetizers $7-$10, mains $10-$15, the latter for the German platter), pizzas $11-$14, desserts $4-$7
Credit cards: All major
Liquor: Atwater vodka, rum, gin and whiskey, as well as the many house beers, minimal selection of wine
Noise level: Moderate to high
Parking: Attached lot and street
Wheelchair access: No barriers
What the ratings mean
★ — routine ★★ — good ★★1/2 — very good
★★★ — excellent ★★★★ — outstanding